For the second time in three seasons, the Arizona Wildcats and Xavier Musketeers are set to meet in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen.
So what’s changed from the Xavier side of things since that 2015 contest? Well, we talked to Caleb Childers from our XU sister sister site Banners on the Parkway to discuss that and more.
1. This obviously isn't the first time we've done the whole Sean Miller vs. Xavier thing, but how big of a deal is that with the fanbase this year?
Childers: I think it's definitely a big deal because it's Sean Miller and because of his success at Xavier, but that being said it has not felt nearly as big as last time. This feels much more "let's win because it's our former coach standing in the way of the elite 8" and less "SEAN MILLER AHHHH". I think having our last meeting be so tight until the end also is fueling our fanbase into thinking that this game might be a potential win.
2. How would you compare this team to the 2015 squad that we saw?
Childers: This year's team is extremely different with the big exception being Trevon Bluiett. He's still around and much more well rounded. This year's team has J.P. Macura playing a huge role as our 3 point bomber, and freshman Quentin Goodin took the place of Edmond Sumner. This team is filled with young guys and has some depth to it. Defense is not nearly as strong as the Farr/Reynolds combo that you last faced, but we've still got some big guys.
3. Xavier was struggling at the end of the regular season but seems to have found its stride last week. What was the biggest difference in their play in the first two rounds as opposed to everything else after the Edmond Sumner injury?
Childers: This team is really playing well as a cohesive unit. Goodin has really filled in well at point guard and Macura has shot really well. The biggest thing probably is that Bluiett is completely healthy and playing well. He missed a few games with an ankle injury, and did not play at 100% for the next few games after coming back. Now he's looking great and really leading this team. Also, shooting wise we simply shot better as a team during the first two rounds of the tournament then we did to end the season. It's totally the burning of the February schedule.
4. Which two players do you think are most likely to have big games vs. Arizona and why?
Childers: Quentin Goodin for sure. He's a freshman who has been asked for a lot, and so far this tournament he's delivered. If he has a bad game then it's going to be so tough for Xavier. Another guy would be RaShid Gaston. He's our big man, and definitely needs to get rebounds to go toe-to-toe with Arizona's big guys. Honestly I see this as being a massive team effort if Xavier wants any chance at winning this game.
5. How do you see this game playing out?
Childers: I think it's going to be tight just like the 2015 contest, but I'm going to keep drinking the Kool-Aid and say Xavier-75 Arizona-73
Thanks to Caleb for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to check out Banners on the Parkway for all things Musketeers.